Democrats Goading Grassley

Judge has been in Washington meeting with Democrats, who are targeting Grassley anew. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Charles E. Grassley is an institution in Iowa, and started the year a prohibitive favorite to win a seventh term. But as the point man for blocking consideration of a Supreme Court nominee, the Republican is getting some concerted needling from Democrats determined to paint him as the poster boy of congressional obstructionism.  

They are even bringing in one of Grassley's potential opponents to the Capitol to help make that point.  

This Ad Links Trump to SCOTUS Opening, Bashes Ayotte

Democratic ad seeks to gain ground with voters in the New Hampshire Senate race by magnifying GOP turmoil on the campaign trail and its position on an Obama Supreme Court nominee. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats love to criticize Republican senators about Donald Trump’s candidacy and the Supreme Court vacancy. Now, they’re combining the two issues into one TV ad.  

A Super PAC aligned with Senate Democrats is airing a new ad aimed at New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, linking her refusal to consider a new Supreme Court justice with the front-runner of the GOP presidential primary.  

Obama and Biden Make Senate Primary Endorsements

Murphy scored endorsements from the president and vice president. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden stepped into two of Democrats' Senate primaries Wednesday morning, throwing their support behind the establishment-backed candidates in Ohio and Florida.  

Ahead of the state's March 15 primary, Obama and Biden backed former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in his race against P.G. Sittenfeld for the Democratic nod to take on GOP Sen. Rob Portman in November. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee backed Strickland in March. "Ohioans have no greater friend than Ted Strickland. Ted is a passionate and proven champion for the middle class, and when Ohio sends him to the United States Senate, he will continue to be a tireless fighter for hardworking families," Obama said in a statement.  

Can the Senate GOP Hold Its Majority With Trump?

McCarthy, R-Calif., andRyan may not be able to escape the fall out from Trump. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republican campaigns are now thinking in practical terms about what a Donald Trump-led ticket would mean for their own down-ballot efforts, increasingly certain that they’ll be running alongside him this fall. The early assessment? All is not lost, but they have ample reason for uncertainty — and fear.  

“It will be a complete and total disaster,” said Rob Jesmer, a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “I’m not saying people cannot win with him at top of the ticket, but remember how challenging Todd Akin was? That would look like child’s play compared to what we’re about to deal with with Trump.” (Akin was the failed 2012 Missouri Senate Republican candidate of "legitimate rape" infamy.)  

Cornyn: GOP Incumbents to Separate From Trump

Trump is the GOP front-runner. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, suggested Senate Republicans seeking reelection will likely distance themselves from their party's current front-runner, Donald Trump, if the business mogul becomes the nominee.  

Trump stoked new controversy over the weekend, when he declined in a CNN interview to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who endorsed the billionaire. Fellow presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continued to criticize Trump over the issue on Monday, ahead of the "Super Tuesday" primaries. Asked if there is some point that he would need to distance himself from Trump, Cornyn told reporters Monday evening, "If I'm running for re-election I think they'll — because it's the next race on the ballot, president, the Senate — you will find candidates who have to separate themselves from the party's nominee if somebody like him is the nominee."  

Republican Senators Ready to Fight Obama to the End On Supreme Court

Wicker says Republicans are "very comfortable" letting the voters speak about the Supreme Court. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The man in charge of maintaining the Senate Republican majority says he isn't concerned about any blowback now that GOP senators have agreed they will not allow either a hearing or a vote for any nominee President Barack Obama submits to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  

"Elections have consequences, and the election this November will have consequences as to the type of Senate we have and to our being disposed to confirm nominees in the vein of Justice Scalia," National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger Wicker told reporters Tuesday. "Or, the American people if they so choose could choose a Senate that will be delighted to have overly liberal and expansionist justices."  

The Long, Sophisticated Fight to Come Over the Supreme Court Opening

Kirk is the only Republican senator in a tough re-election race to not take a position on whether Obama should fill Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court or leave it to his successor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republican and Democratic Senate campaigns have already clashed – fiercely – over when and how to confirm a new Supreme Court justice.  

But those early rhetorical salvos are only the beginning of what will be a sustained effort to take advantage of the court’s sudden opening, one that operatives from both parties say could reshape fundraising, turnout operations and targeted media to diehard partisans and swing voters alike. The blunt message from some of them: The terrain of the 2016 Senate election changed when Antonin Scalia died, and now it’s up to the party committees and their allied campaigns to recalibrate their strategy and tactics or be left behind.  

Could Trump, Cruz Victories Cause GOP Problems Down-Ballot?

Attendees cheer for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Tuesday as he gives his victory speech after winning the New Hampshire 2016 primary in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call)

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have demonstrated anew to conservatives how to take on — and defeat — the GOP establishment. If they’re not careful, Republicans might soon feel the consequences of their victories beyond the presidential race.  

The unprecedented early success of the Texas senator and billionaire businessman in Iowa and New Hampshire might spark a transformation in a year’s-worth of Republican House and Senate primaries, threatening to transform a sleepy slate of contests into ones that recall the pitched intra-party wars waged during the height of the tea party movement. The hope among conservative insurgents — and concern among the GOP powers-that-be — is Trump and Cruz serve as beacons to like-minded voters, donors and candidates, who can harness the energy and enthusiasm of the White House race into their down-ballot battles against incumbent GOP lawmakers.  

Bernie Sanders as GOP Tool: Their Plan to Use Him Against Democrats

Sanders speaks Feb. 1 at his caucus night rally at the Holiday Inn Des Moines Airport and Conference Center in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bernard Sanders’ surprisingly strong candidacy for president has laid bare a sharp division within the Democratic coalition, pitting its activist base against the moderate-minded establishment.  

It’s a split Republicans — especially the ones focused on winning down-ballot races this fall — are now racing to exploit.